Throughout his career, Josh Anderson has shown flashes of becoming a quality top-six power forward but he has yet to be able to do consistently. Now set to play a full season in a more offensive-oriented system, will the winger have a breakout year?
After scoring at a 27-goal pace in his first season with the team, expectations were high for Anderson. He was healthy and riding shotgun with two prominent young forwards in Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield (who were surely going to take a step forward) was going to put him in a position for a career year. At least, that was the hope inside the organization.
The reality was much different. Anderson dealt with a pair of lower-body injuries while Suzuki and Caufield went through some ups and downs. The end result was Anderson’s numbers looking a lot like they did for most of his time in Columbus. That’s not terrible but it wasn’t worth the $5.5 million cap hit he carries either.
Things also didn’t really change much for the better following the coaching change either. In 35 games under Martin St. Louis, Anderson had 16 points (10-6-16). In 34 games with Dominique Ducharme behind the bench, Anderson also had 16 points (9-7-16). His playing time and role didn’t really change considerably either. In other words, he was one of a handful of players whose production didn’t improve with the new bench boss which likely is part of the reason we’ve seen his name in trade speculation in recent months.
5 Year Averages
(The stats for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been extrapolated to an 82-game rate.)
While there is bound to be a lot of mixing and matching with the Canadiens currently having a surplus of wingers (which may or may not change by training camp with how difficult moving money is right now), Anderson’s spot seems relatively secure. At this point, his likeliest linemates are Suzuki and Caufield; no, Juraj Slafkovsky isn’t going from a depth role in Finland to the top line in Montreal right away. Slafkovsky will be eased into the NHL as he should so while he might ultimately be the long-term winger for Suzuki and Caufield, that won’t come next season so Anderson is the logical fit for 2022-23. If they try someone else with those two, Anderson should slot in on the second line.
From a special teams perspective, I could see Anderson losing some power play time next season with Slafkovsky and Evgenii Dadonov being likely to see time with the man advantage. Considering he had all of three power play points last season in over 146 minutes of playing time, that’s probably not a bad thing either. Anderson has all of 16 career power play points so it’s not like a dip in ice time there is going to materially affect his output beyond perhaps a small dip in shots on goal.
What it might do, however, is push him towards playing on the penalty kill as it’s unlikely Montreal will want one of its highest-paid forwards playing even strength only. It’s not as if Anderson isn’t used to that role as he used to kill penalties with some regularity towards the end of his time in Columbus. Again, that won’t really affect his output but for leagues that count hits and blocks, he could get a small boost in those categories.
For most of his career, Anderson hasn’t been a big point producer; the 32 he put up last season was the second-highest output of his career. While it’s possible he could do a bit better in 2022-23 if he stays healthy, it’s not going to be a significant leap.
Anderson is a candidate to be over-drafted based on his contract and role. He’s a potential top-line player on a team that projects to be at least a little better offensively (they can’t get much worse) and has a big enough contract that will dissuade the team from really dropping him down too much in the lineup. Someone in your pool is likely going to have that type of logic and take Anderson earlier than he should be.
In smaller 12-team leagues, Anderson shouldn’t really be on the radar in most formats. He’s worth a bump for those that count shots (he averages around 2.25 per game with Montreal) and hits (2.4 per game with the Habs) which makes him a mid-to-later-round option in deeper pools. Power forwards can often play big roles for teams and Anderson is no exception but he’ll bring more value to the Canadiens on the ice than he will in most fantasy leagues next season.
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